5:03 | Marine aviator Bill Cunningham served with a fellow officer named John Archibald during his second tour in Vietnam. One night, Archibald wandered into his quarters and made an ominous pronouncement.
Keywords : Bill Cunningham helicopter pilot Vietnam Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight John Archibald
Bill Cunningham caught the flying bug in the National Guard, applied for flight training and was accepted. In Pensacola, he found excitement right away when he and his instructor heard a loud banging in the engine during a training flight.
Marine aviator Bill Cunningham recalls his time in Pensacola practicing carrier landings, including the time his tailhook malfunctioned. Before departing for the next phase of training, the group was asked how many are going to the Marines. His hand was one of the few, but when the Navy bound heard what awaited them, the Marines gained some more.
Marine aviator Bill Cunningham describes the aborted takeoff which caused him to flip his aircraft at the end of the runway. It was a faulty part but there were other hazards in training, like towing the target for the others to shoot. Then there was more carrier training, which was very dangerous.
After receiving his commission and his wings, Marine aviator Bill Cunningham went to Corpus Christi for instrument training. One day, as he waited by the runway for his instructor, he was startled when the man showed up with a big surprise.
Marine aviator Bill Cunningham had a little mishap with a rocket while training in Puerto Rico. He still doesn't know where that thing went. When it was time for assignment, he was given a choice, instructing or multi-engine aircraft. Neither appealed to him so he went a third way, helicopters.
For his first assignment after completing his training, Bill Cunningham was sent to the best Marine Air Station in the whole country, Miami. There he flew the A-1 Skyraider, a much beloved single engine prop plane that was very versatile. He also had a great gunnery sergeant who helped him with a prickly executive officer.
Bill Cunningham had completed his helicopter training at Ellyson field and was at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miami. He flew any aircraft he could just for the experience, and one day, he spotted a massive crate containing an oddball Sikorsky craft that he just had to assemble and try out.
Marine aviator Bill Cunningham's first overseas assignment was at the Naval Air Station in Oppama, Japan, where he ferried troops and flew search and rescue missions. After 14 months, he returned to Pensacola where he became an instructor and honed his skills flying numerous different helicopters.
Marine Corps helicopter pilot Bill Cunningham served a ground tour in California, where he set up a second training location for pilots. The Marines needed many more because Vietnam was heating up and helicopters had become vital to their mission. During this time, he had an interesting excursion to Thailand, where he trained Thai pilots.
Bill Cunningham was based in Da Nang during his first tour of Vietnam. He recalls ferrying South Vietnamese troops and their livestock, which caused the crew chiefs to spend a lot of time cleaning the aircraft.
Marine Corps helicopter pilot Bill Cunningham was tasked with training Vietnamese pilots during his first tour in Vietnam. He was taken aback when their commander made an ominous promise.
He was ferrying South Vietnamese troops to an operation when helicopter pilot Bill Cunningham heard over the radio, "You've got smoke!" After setting down he saw the ship had been hit and everyone scrambled to get out. Everyone except his co-pilot, who was having trouble with his new weapon, the M-16.
There were 87 men on some high ground surrounded by Viet Cong and Marine helicopter pilot Bill Cunningham had a problem. There was only room for one ship at a time to land in the tiny landing zone they had hacked out of the bush. It would be one at a time so he spiraled down for the first load. Then he felt like a sledgehammer hit his leg.
It was a strange trip home. Bill Cunningham was in a full body cast and next to a patient who was ranting and raving. Then an engine went out, which caused him to make an urgent request to the nurse.
A Viet Cong bullet had failed to keep him out of the war. After recovering from that misfortune, Marine helicopter pilot Bill Cunningham began his second tour by assuming command of the MABS-16 squadron, which was responsible for the operation of the base at Marble Mountain.
Bill Cunningham was in command of a Marine helicopter squadron in Vietnam, and he was lucky to have a competent and respected sergeant major on his team. He recalls the time the man defused a tense situation involving an intoxicated Marine and an M-16.
Marine helicopter pilot Bill Cunningham had a hooch next to the short runway where his aircraft were based. One night he was startled to hear the roar of a large jet aircraft very close. He awoke to a strange sight.
Bill Cunningham made sure every pilot in the squadron rotated in the search and rescue missions because they were the most dangerous and he wanted to spread out the risk. The Marine aircraft were accompanied by gunships for security and he always seemed to be paired with the same gunship pilot, call sign Hostage Jack.
Marine helicopter pilot Bill Cunningham was paired with a gunship pilot called Hostage Jack on many of the search and rescue missions he flew in Vietnam. The missions were dangerous but it was a little weather scouting flight that cost Hostage Jack his life.
The big twin rotor helicopters flown by Marine pilot Bill Cunningham in Vietnam had door gunners with 50 caliber machine guns. As he approached a landing zone on a night mission, he heard one of the weapons fire. The gunner thought he had spotted an enemy muzzle flash. Unfortunately, it was not.
Bill Cunningham recalls his friend Gene Brady, who always beat him at gin rummy. The two Marine helicopter pilots commanded sister squadrons in Vietnam. Once, he was Brady's co-pilot and that turned out to be a memorable mission. Another memorable mission involved a rig called a jungle penetrator.
After his second Vietnam tour, Bill Cunningham was put in command of a troop ship full of Marines coming straight from the bush. That was a memorable trip and included an emergency caused by a wind blown cap. When the ship landed in San Diego, there was no welcome except for a crusty old colonel who made a ridiculous demand.
Marine aviator Bill Cunningham tells a couple of stories about the man who took over his squadron, Walt Leadbetter. The events begin with the profane and then move to the sacred, an incident that resulted in a Medal of Honor award.
After his combat tours in Vietnam, Marine aviator Bill Cunningham served in several assignments that gave him a lot of chances to travel. In Africa, he helped manage drought and famine relief as part of a relief operation and, back home, he made readiness inspections of Marine air units.
When you set an eighteen year old kid down in a jungle and give him "half the power of the Lord to carry on his hip," it becomes a real concern to restrain him. According to Captain Marshall Carter, once they see their buddies blown away in front of them, they want to shoot anything that moves.
Fred Mills had a rookie pilot on a evacuation mission who nearly hit the only tree in a rice paddy. Other stories include a refused Purple Heart, tracers through the cabin, and landing a replacement craft next to the still smoldering craft it replaced.
Back home in the States, reporter Joe Galloway was disturbed by the treatment of returning Vietnam vets and eager to tell his story about the Ia Drang battle. A new job with U.S. News & World Report allowed him to do that and it resulted in a best selling book authored by him and Hal Moore, the American commander at the battle.
After a break for grad school, Marshall Carter returned for a second Vietnam tour but this time he was an adviser to the South Vietnamese Marines. He speaks highly of them but says that Gen. Westmoreland's neglect of South Vietnamese forces contributed to their eventual defeat.
Dennis Haines and his friend Jack Kirchner came across a Viet Cong bunker that they thought was empty. After Kirchner fired a shotgun round through a port, he turned to leave and was nearly cut in two by enemy rounds.
Newly minted Marine Lieutenant Beirne Lovely was making contact with the enemy everyday as soon as he arrived at Khe Sanh. Assigned to establish a forward outpost, his unit was annoyed by the lack of a rations when a grazing deer was spotted. The results of the deer hunt were a little concerning.
Freddie Owens reveals his most vivid memory of Vietnam, the desperate run of Capt. George Forrest right through the middle of an ambush. He also talks about the best and worst days of his tour.
How did he spend his down time? "There was no down time," says Bob Atkinson, who was a Marine mortarman protecting Da Nang. He could relax enough at battalion, though, to play pranks involving a radio and a tape recorder.
While the doctors tried to find out whether he'd had a heart attack or not, alarming telegrams began to go out to Mac McCahan's family, despite the fact that he'd signed a document directing the Army to send such messages only in the event of death. Part 2 of 3.
“I was out of it for days,” recalls Dennis Haines, He had a head wound and would only regain full consciousness after he was evacuated to a hospital in Japan, where he learned the left side of his body was paralyzed.
It was better to put men in the field and leave them there. That was the philosophy of Battalion commander Ralph Puckett in Vietnam, where some commanders inserted and then quickly withdrew their troops. When the operation was over, the reward was beer and steak and ice cream. Being prepared was very important to him and he illustrates that principle with a story about some soldiers who were not.
Sam Pyle recalls a humorous event involving a jeep, a machine gun and a C-47 aircraft. Less humorous to him were the rules of engagement, which meant his Air Security unit had to get permission to fire on VC approaching the base.
Freddie Jones has maintained contact with his fellow veterans from Vietnam, sometimes talking them out from under the bed in the middle of the night. His own healing was incomplete when he saw the Twin Towers fall on 9-11 and that became a turning point for him.
During his time in Vietnam, Sam Pyle had the occasion to laugh, like the time the tyrannical sergeant forgot to clear his gun. He also had the occasion to feel queasy when the ARVN interrogator started breaking fingers.
As an aeronautical engineer, Al Muller had done a lot of interesting work in the Air Force, but as a Forward Air Controller flying out of Thailand, he added the experience of war to his resume. After targeting a vast ammo dump that burned for two weeks, he got a surprise when he returned from R & R.
He wasn't involved in combat, but ARVN advisor Bill Ray saw many casualties evacuated by helicopter to the field next to his hotel in Saigon. He needed the perspective because he was on one of the best tours ever in a war zone, with handball at the air base, tennis at the club and even water skiing. He praise the Vietnamese professionals he worked with but was puzzled by the wide gap between the elite and the general population.
During his first tour of Vietnam, Bill Acebes experienced the distaste of searching for a missing soldier who turned out to be a coward but he also enjoyed the awesome sight of a new Huey Delta gunship. As he was leaving, he made Sergeant, then could barely get out of the country due to incoming fire. After a short run at college, he returned for a second tour as an advisor.
As the battle of the Ia Drang Valley began, Freddie Owens had to hunker down and listen to the fire from a couple of miles away. He knew there were enemy battalions in there and he feared a bloodbath. Moving in the second day, he saw the grim results of the battle so far, an unbelievable scene of death and destruction.
To Ernest Washington, Marine Corps basic training was "12 weeks of football practice." But it became much more serious when the civil rights upheaval of the time spilled over into the military. The beauty of it was the understanding which came from striving together as Marines.
Marine mortarman Bob Atkinson got to relax back at battalion only every now and then, and it wasn't that safe there because it was hit frequently. Nor was he immune to heartbreak there, as he found out when a swarm of children went after food scraps in the dump.
Years after his head wound, Dennis Haines found the surgeon, John Baldwin, who operated on him in the field hospital. Only then did he learn how close to death he had been, so close that he was put in the group of patients who were deemed not likely to survive.
When the battle of Ia Drang started, reporter Joe Galloway flattened until he heard Sergeant Major Basil Plumley bellow, "Can't take no pictures laying there on the ground, Sonny." Galloway not only got up, he was a player in the biggest battle of the war, with Custer's old outfit in a river valley surrounded by a vastly larger number of hostiles.